Quito

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Quito at night by L.Marcio_Ramalho, flickr

Quito at night

Due to its location between snow-capped volcanoes, Quito is a long ribbon of a city extending 35 km from north to south but only 5 km wide.

History

Quito gets its name from the Quitua Amerindians. The Quitus integrated with the coastal Caras becoming the Indian group known as the Shyris. The Shyris joined with the Puruhás  thorough marriage around AD 1300. Their descendants fought the invading Incas in the late 1400s. Led by Huayna-Capac, the Inca Empire added this area to the Inca Empire after impressive resistance by the Amerindians living here. In the end Huayna-Capac married a princess from the conquered tribe and set up the Incas northern capital in Quito. A road was built to connect the two capitals–a phenomenal accomplishment. Huayna-Capac fathered sons in both the northern and southern regions of his kingdom and this proved to be the downfall of the Inca Empire. When he died, his legitimate heir in Cuzco (modern day Peru), Huascar, claimed the throne at the same time a his favorite, but illegitimate son, Atahualp, declared himself Inca in Quito.

In 1526, the Spanish conquistadors arrive on the scene. Francisco Pizarro had Atahualpa executed on the main plaza of Cajamarca (northern Peru). A year later Sebastián de Benalcázar arrived in Quito to claim it for the Spanish crown. They did not meet without resistance, however. Rumiñahui (Face of Stone), Atahualpa’s general, set the Inca palace on fire and razed the city so there wasn’t anything left for the Spanish to claim. Rumiñahui was captured and executed.

Weather

Like most of Ecuador’s highlands, temperatures are “spring-like” year round despite being so near the Equator. This is, of course, due to the high altitudes. Temperatures don’t vary much and the daily averages are from 55°F to 80°F. Quito is located at 9,350 feet above sea level and takes some getting used to if you are from a lower elevation. There are only two seasons: wet, which is from October to May and is considered winter and dry, which is from June to September and considered summer.

Quito’s Neighborhoods

La Mariscal (New Town)

If you like to be in the middle of activity, La Mariscal is for you. There are tons of restaurants in this neighborhood as well as many bars. You can find reasonably-priced apartments here but you have to like the noise, lights and activity to be happy here.

La Floresta

This neighborhood is just up the hill from La Mariscal. It is much quieter and very popular so prices are noticeably higher. La Floresta has upscale restaurants and shops including a new SuperMaxi.

La Carolina

Tim and I stayed in this area when we were in Ecuador in 2008. There was a lot of activity but it was of the sporting variety. Parque Carolina is one of the city’s largest parks. Joggers, walkers and bicyclists use the 165+ acres especially on weekends. Besides the walking/running paths, there are volleyball and soccer courts or you could rent a paddleboat and take to the pond. If you aren’t in the mood for sport, you could enjoy the concert centers, exhibition center or botanical gardens.

Around Parque Carolina you will see many upscale restaurants, stores and apartment buildings. Quicentro, one of the largest and most upscale shopping malls in Quito is located at the northern end of Avenida República del Salvador. The apartments in this area are small and compact but with many extra amenities offered for all the occupants of the building including health clubs, swimming pools, theaters, barbecue ares and playgrounds.

Old Town

At more than 800 acres, Old Town Quito is one of the largest historic centers in Latin America. Young professionals and artistic types love Old Town. Bargains can be found if you are willing to put in the work.

González Suárez

Along the highest ridge of Quito’s easter site, you will find the same kind of upscale living you’d expect to find in Manhattan’s Upper West Side but at a much more affordable price. High-rise apartments have ground-floor commercial areas such as health clubs, spas, dry cleaners, bakeries, sushi shops and beauty salons. On the floors above, you have unsurpassed views of the valley of Tumbaco.

Bellavista

Bordering the 14,000 acre Parque Metropolitano, Belavista offers wonderful views of the city and the mountains to the west. This neighborhood has both homes and apartments to explore.

El Batán

This is Quito’s most expensive neighborhood and home to U.S. embassy staff and international professionals. The ultra-private Quito Tenis and Golf Club is in El Batán. If you can’t live without playing golf, you may want to considering this neighborhood with its access to an 18-hole golf course, plus racquet courts, swimming pool, soccer fields, gym, health spa, equestrian center and nine restaurants.